Tony Blair: The Whole World in his Hands

The death of Cabinet government has been a near constant theme of British politics in the 20th century. But it came closer to reality under the premiership of Tony Blair, argues Archie Brown.

Tony Blair dismisses any idea of his ‘wanting to be a president’ as ‘complete tosh’. Yet throughout his recently-published memoirs, Tony Blair: A Journey (Hutchinson, 2010), he writes as if he embodied the executive power in the United Kingdom, with the right to have the last word on every major policy decision; as if he were, indeed, a British equivalent of the US president.

There have been other prime ministers like this, Neville Chamberlain for one. Even when he was Chancellor of the Exchequer in the government headed by Stanley Baldwin from 1931 to 1937, Chamberlain told his sister that ‘I have become a sort of Acting PM – only without the actual power of the PM. I have to say “Have you thought” or “What would you say” when it would be quicker to say “That is what you must do”.’

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